The best idea I've heard all day

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Pumpsie Green.jpgCommenter CG Hudson had a great idea in the No. 42 thread this morning about how to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day next year:

This wearing of the 42 is all well and good but how about MLB getting
creative next year (I know; no chance) and having each team wear the
number of its first African American player (i.e., Indians wear Doby’s
number, Reds wear Chuck Harmon’s, etc., etc.). We all might learn a bit
more in the process.

While I don’t like that we’ve changed Washington and Lincoln’s birthday to “Presidents’ Day,” it’s not like doing what CG suggests would diminish Robinson’s legacy the way adding Richard Nixon to the party sullies George and Abe’s.  To the contrary, it honors those worthy of honor in ways they’ve never been honored before. I think it’s a great idea. I’d love it if Major League Baseball were to do this. I see only two problems:

  • The late-to-integrate teams like the Red Sox and Tigers may not much care for having their historical foot-dragging shoved in their face like this. My response: tough. History is history and part of that history is exposing who, historically speaking, was slow to come to see the light. Just because Tom Yawkey was a racist doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate Pumpsie Green. And besides, all the people who fought integration are either long dead or at least long out of control of the teams they worked for or owned at the time, so who cares what they think?
  • The second problem is that there are now 14 more teams in the league than there were in 1947, and all of them were integrated from Day One of their existence, so it’s not entirely clear what they should do. I’m sure we can figure something out, however. Maybe they go with Robinson. Maybe they go with Negro Leagues tribute. Maybe they do something else that reflects the civil rights struggle in their particular cities. As far as problems go, it’s solvable.

Anyway, the point is to use Jackie Robinson Day to honor the history of baseball’s integration and teach people a few things. Why not change it up a bit next year and give the Curt Roberts and Bob Trices of the world their due?

And for the record. here’s a list of the first black players on every major
league team in existence at the time the color barrier was broken:

Jackie
Robinson     Dodgers
Larry Doby             Indians
Hank
Thompson      Browns
Monte Irvin             Giants
Hank
Thompson      Giants (same day as Irvin; Thompson integrated two teams!
Sam
Jethroe           Braves
Minnie Minoso        White Sox
Bob Trice
              Athletics
Ernie Banks           Cubs
Curt Roberts
          Pirates
Tom Alston             Cardinals
Nino
Escalera         Reds
Chuck Harmon        Reds (same day as Escalera)
Carlos
Paula           Senators
Elston Howard         Yankees
John
Kennedy         Phillies
Ozzie Virgil, Sr.       Tigers
Pumpsie
Green        Red Sox

Make it happen, Bud!

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.